– Lekh Pall
Democratic and Human Rights Activist
Indian Government led by PM Modi and his Bharati Janta Party has brought in three black laws that will dangerously affect the agricultural industry in whole of India. Modi says these laws will be in the best interest of the Indian farmers but nothing could be further from the truth. These laws will put the farmers at the mercy of the corporate house and destroy their livelihood. The farmers have understood the real threat these laws will have on them and the workers associated with the agricultural industry. Punjab farmers and farm labourers, after months of protesting, blocking railways, toll plazas, corporate run malls, and surrounding residence of BJP politicians, have given the call to ‘Go to Delhi’. The Punjabi farmers movement has spread to all other states. The farmers now have the support of virtually all trade unions and the movement has taken the shape of Peoples Movement. Delhi is surrounded by protesters, nearly all highways to the outside are blocked. What has angered the farmers so much?
Presently the Farmer has the option to sell their produce at the Government regulated markets run by Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) at government agreed minimum support price (MSP). The traders buy from the APMC and sell to the wholesale market. The new legislations allow the setting up of alternative (non-government regulated) markets. Modi Government claims these laws will connect the farmers directly to the market, cutting out the middleman, thus farmers will get a better price for their produce. The farmers say this is complete bunkum. The farmers do not see the traders as a problem but as necessary service providers. The traders perform the function of getting the crop from the market to the whole sale dealers. The traders also act as ‘quick and easy’ moneylenders to the farmers which helps to buy essentials like fertiliser, farm machinery, etc. Such loans are difficult to get from the banks due to bureaucratic procedures so they the use the traders.
The State run APMC markets collect tax on the sales, whereas the alternative free markets are tax exempted. This not only deprives the States of tax revenue, much needed for social expenditure, health, education, etc, but it puts the government run markets at a serious price disadvantage. Taking advantage of the tax exemptions, the unregulated open markets will be manipulated by the corporate houses like Adani and Ambani. For a few years they will give high prices to the farmers compared to that offered by APMC and thus kill off the government regulated markets. Then MSP will be disregarded and the farmers will be forced to sell at the reduced market price. The corporates have the capacity to buy huge bulks of produce and the ability to store. The corporates thus empowered will wait for shortages to occur and then jack up the retail prices, making huge profits at the expense of consumer public.
In time the corporates will have the muscle to dictate low prices to the farmers, making farming unviable. The farmers will be encouraged to enter into contracts with the corporates with promises of good prices for the yield. When the crops are harvested then the promised price will be thrown to the wind on various excuses like poor quality, etc. The farmer will have no legal recourse to settle the price dispute with the corporates, whereas this function is presently carried out by the APMC. The farmers will be forced to sell their land at giveaway price to the corporates which will kill off the farmers and the farming communities. The farmers will eventually be reduced to labourers. The government has already introduced new labours laws that are hugely disadvantageous to the workers and set to produce slave labour. Though the Government claims not to scrap the MSP, however it has no intention of guaranteeing that price, either in newly proposed open markets nor in the increasingly redundant APMC markets. The farmers demand that MSP is brought into legislation is falling on deaf ears.
The consequential effect of the new laws on India’s farming community is going to get worse than the already prevailing dire situation. The farmers, particularly the small landowners, have been thrown to the merciless loan sharks. Farmers in India have committed suicide in their tens of thousands in the last few decades. The so-called green revolution of the 70s has made them dependant on non-eco-friendly farming practices. The Indian farmers have been held in the tight grip of the increasingly failing policies of the privatisation, globalisation and liberalisation. These laws are designed to enable corporations to extract maximum profits by dictating to the farmers what crops they must grow, at lowest price. Small farmers will become extinct and become labourers. Monopoly farming will become the norm.
When the farmer suffers the assured death, resulting from these corporate instigated laws, what will happen to the land labourers who are dependent on the daily wage earned on the farms? The corporates will squeeze the farmers on their margin and/or compel them to give up their land, the effect that will have on the land labourers leaves little to imagination. Land labourers who currently struggle to get daily work and daily living wage, will be left destitute more so than they already are.
In this great movement of peasants and workers, united in struggle, let unity not be spoilt by religious divide or with casteist terms like JAT, JAAT, etc. This is coming up far too frequently in videos. There are many organisations and individuals who understand the connotations of these casteist words and they are very careful not to use such terms. Instead, they use Kisan, which is agreeable to all. Every effort needs to be made to prevent damage to this historic struggle by casteist arrogance.
Some of those who have reached borders of Delhi say they are ‘Bharatis’ (come to collect the bride) need to be removed from the genuine farmers protest and sent to some kind of correction centre. These elements are casteist who follow feudalistic patriarchalism. They deserve no place in the farmers movement. Let us use this opportunity to educate the un-educated.
The Indian farmers movement is advancing leaps and bounds. Millions of farmers and farm workers are protesting at the door step of DELHI. There are reports that (State) sponsored disruptive elements are involved in the movement. These elements are deliberately installed to de-rail the legitimate struggle by painting it a ‘colour’, be it Anti-nationals, Terrorists, Khalistani, Naxals, etc. In the long run such bad elements and the stubborn Hindutva government can only be defeated by the united front of farmers and workers stood steadfast in the face of Capitalism and Feudalism. Unite or perish are the only options.